When Colonel Don Berry commissioned Ross Neale to secure
the memorabilia of the area's militia, he made a wise choice. The proposed
museum would include artifacts from the 12th Manitoba Dragoons, the 26th
Field Regiment, RCA, and others from private donations.
Ross came from a military background, his father serving in the
First World War and himself in World War II. After being discharged in
1945, he worked for MTS, but maintained his interest in the military by
serving in the militia at various points in Manitoba.
On obeying the call from his superior in 1979, Ross took stock
of the colossal task ahead. All the Dragoon artifacts were already in storage
at the Brandon Armouries -- he only needed to transfer them to the top
story of the building, the proposed site.
But then the reality of the situation struck him. You just can't
be a bonafide curator, at the drop of a hat. You must learn, learn, learn.
Learn what? Learn how to categorize, how to display to the best
advantage, how to control the lighting, how to restore photos, how to mend
paper as well as fabrics and how to preserve clothing. Then there was cataloguing,
paper work and fund raising.
But Ross seemed to keep his cool under all these pressures. He
always managed to find exceptional help, when it was most needed. Money
to support such an extensive enterprise, came in the forms of grants from
both provincial and federal governments. But a highlight of each
year is Vimy Night, a one day fund raiser held in April on the date closest
to the Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge.
Ross' motivation for remaining on the job is two-fold. It's important
to keep history alive for the younger generation, and tours of the museum
gives them a solid view as to the service rendered by so many in time of
war. Secondly, being a curator has been a labour of love for Ross. In his
words, "if you believe something is worth preserving, you work at it as
long as health remains!"
Submitted by Seniors for Seniors Writers Circle